The Roundup -

RED Urges Your Support of Local Irrigation

 


Ever wonder, after the fact: “How could this have happened? Why didn’t we know about this issue?”

Richland Economic Development Corp has been asking this question a lot lately. The safe passage of the endangered species, the pallid sturgeon, around the Intake Diversion structure has been front and center for us. I personally thought that once the modifications to the headworks by adding the fish screens to prevent the small “fingerlings” from entering into the canal system was accomplished, that an alternative for fish passage would be remedied just as quickly. This is not the case.

The final decision regarding the alternative chosen to accomplish fish passage has not yet been made.

The state and federal agencies that make this decision are hosting two public meetings in our area to actively analyze the level of public support as well as opposition. One in Glendive, on Wed, April 23, at the Dawson County High School, at 6:00 PM, and the second one in Sidney, on Thurs, April 24, at the Sidney High School, at 6:00 PM.

Over 100 alternatives for fish passage have been considered by the Bureau of Reclamation, US & MT Fish Wildlife and Parks, and the Corp of Engineers. The Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, MT Fish Wildlife and Parks, Corp of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation engineers and biologists have carefully evaluated, tested, and are considering one alternative as the modification to the existing weir in addition to a fish bypass. The proposed concrete weir would be as fish passable as possible, thus providing two options for fish passage. The fish bypass would be placed in a location that would be minimally damaged by erosion and flood events such as the 150 year flood event we had in 2011, and the 100 year ice flood event we had last month in March 2014.

So what’s the urgency for action now? The US Corp of Engineers has allocated federal money for this project that is only guaranteed through Fiscal Year 2014. If that funding isn’t used at Intake, those dollars will probably be spent on other projects, and the Intake Fish Passage Project will revert back to the Bureau of Reclamation. From then on, local irrigators may be financially responsible to achieve fish passage, or suffer the loss of their irrigation water and the stability it brings to our economy.

If you would participate at the upcoming public meetings, for the proposed agreement between irrigators, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Corp of Engineers, and the US & MT Fish Wildlife and Parks, the end result could protect the endangered species, improve accessibility for water enthusiasts, and continue to supply the reliable water to the irrigators of the LYIP system in Northeastern MT and Western ND. A win-win for all.

You have the ability right now to voice your opinion on this very important subject. Buses will be provided for those who would like a ride to the meeting in Glendive. Sidney Schools are providing 3 buses in addition to one from Fairview Schools. The buses will be loaded in Fairview between 4 PM and 4:15 PM and Sidney between 4:30 PM-5:00 PM,

Wednesday, April 23rd, in the oval in front of Sidney High School, while parking is available in the North Parking Lot. The buses will depart promptly at 5:00 PM from Sidney to reach the Glendive High School Cafeteria by 6:00 PM.

Thus the role of Richland Economic Development Corp. is to bring this situation to the forefront of peoples’ minds. We can all work together to choose the most effective fish passage alternative to: successfully preserve our endangered species, our rivers, and our agricultural economies for many generations to come.

Please attend one or both of the public meetings to have your voiced weighed in on an alternative chosen for the Intake Diversion system.

 

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